Congratulations to the first annual Genius30 award winners. Below is a list of 30 power moves that highly impacted the real estate industry. We tracked hundreds of news stories and events in 2010 and selected the following 30 people as the faces of change in real estate technology, marketing, associations and more.
Bell blew the lid off of the NARscandal.com scam:
This spring, an anonymous website, NARscandal.com popped up threatening to expose the “ills” of the National Association of Realtors and claimed to have insider knowledge of missteps and misdeeds done by NAR and their staff and for a fee, you too could know the scandalous information. The site owner claimed to have death threats against him which we called BS on given that he was anonymous. The real estate audience denounced the site because the owner wouldn’t come forward. This was a huge story on Twitter and Facebook, and the anonymous NARscandal founder offered an exclusive interview with AG which we declined.
The power play we would like to give credit to Brian Bell, CTO of the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors for is his unveiling the site owner as Gary Joyner of IDXSolutions.com who VendorAlley.com quickly noted “stretch[ed] the truth” about his client roster. Shortly after Bell’s discovery, the site was taken down.
Move, Inc. made the biggest turnaround in 2010:
In 2009, there wasn’t a lot of noise coming from the Move, Inc. camp, but in 2010, there were expansions, tech announcements and acquisitions galore, all improving their offering, especially Realtor.com, under Berkowitz’ leadership.
This fall, Realtor.com renegotiated their contract with NAR after 14 years, they acquired listing syndication company ListHub, released an Android app before most of their competitors, redesigned their site stating they wanted to emphasize the data and Realtor profiles and their network sites’ traffic grew exponentially. Move, Inc. even launched a consumer lending site, stating their goals as transparency and removing a middle man and their fees. Move is in a lot of places and has had a big year.
Smarter Agent’s power grabbing patent lawsuit:
Under Eric Blumberg, Smarter Agent launched a lawsuit this year alleging they own the patent for “Global positioning-based real estate database access device and method,” “position based information access device and method” and “position based information access device and method of searching.” They are asking for monetary damages and injunctive relief.
The patent suit basically alleges that Smarter Agent owns mobile real estate search and no one can create a mobile app in which real estate is searched- not agents, not third party sites, not IDX, no one. Despite being based in New Jersey, the suit is filed in Delaware which is interesting to patent experts as they are known for being lenient on companies that pursue patent infringement cases. This power move threatens defendants like Zillow, Hotpads, Boopsie, Move Inc., Trulia, ZipRealty and likely anyone planning on mobile real estate apps in 2011. Smarter Agent may have started the real estate patent lawsuit frenzy that could just be heating up.
Roost develops agent-centric Facebook page app:
Before officially launching in February, we broke the story that Roost was developing a new Facebook application called “Market Tab.” At the time it was being tested in select cities and has expanded over the last year. The tab adds a “Market View” tab to any agent’s Facebook page to show local real estate information as provided by Roost.com.
Roost’s power play of the year is their free app that turns an agent’s Facebook page into a more productive lead generator rather than a sheep throwing time waster. The app can be branded with an agent’s logoand links and places the agent above the vendor.
BHGRE makes biggest franchise move in Realogy history:
In the biggest power play in Realogy history, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, led by CEO Sherry Chris announced Mason-McDuffie had joined their national franchise network. Mason-McDuffie has been around for nearly 125 years serving northern California and Nevada.
In 2009 alone, their sales volume was $2.8 billion with over 7,600 transactions. The BHGRE franchise has grown rapidly since their launch and the pace appears to be accelerating. We wonder which other major brokerages will join the fold in 2011.
Representative Dahlkemper sponsored a bill to extend the tax credit closing date:
When the home buyer tax credit expired this April allowing home buyers to qualify for thousands of dollars worth of tax credits, homebuyers were required to close their transactions by June 30th but with all of the backlogged lenders, it wasn’t realistic for many to close fast enough to keep their tax credits.
When an extension was proposed, it was included in the “American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes” bill which was highly contentious and near impossible to pass. Representative Dahlkemper sponsored a standalone bill to extend the closing date to September 30th which quickly passed minus the drama of the original bill. We acknowledge this power play because it preserved the integrity of the tax credits which was a major reason for many buyers to enter the market. By preserving this integrity, the front line foot soldiers (Realtors) were not left holding the bag.
HUD refuses to issue blank checks, makes applicants prove innovation for revitalization projects:
This year, HUD secretary Shaun Donovan and his team took a stand against blatant spending and required cities applying for HUD funds to submit innovative ideas in an effort to revitalize struggling cities.
This power play is not one that denounces government spending, rather imposes responsibility on the spending it is required to do as a government organization. Six cities were awarded millions of dollars going toward urban redevelopment.
Trulia acquires Movity indicating a departure from “me too” technologies:
Just this week, Trulia made what we believe to be the biggest power play of the year and one that will change the landscape of real estate search. For an undisclosed amount, Trulia acquired Movity.com, a stealth YCombinator funded startup in San Francisco that has not only some of the best talent in the field but some of the coolest, most innovative technologies. With their visualization technologies and creativity implemented into Trulia’s offering, this move will have a major impact leading into 2011.
Realtor Property Resource (RPR) launches, led by a very vocal CEO:
At the end of last year, the National Association of Realtors launched the Realtor Property Resource (RPR) to mixed reviews. Marty Frame, CEO of RPR has been an open, vocal mouthpiece of the organization and at the National Association of Realtors National Convention in New Orleans, it is reported that at an MLS Association Executive session, Frame shook things up by calling CoreLogic to the carpet by openly questioning them about their alleged use of MLS listings on public facing sites.
Frame elicited a direct response from CoreLogic claiming they do not violate their contracts to abuse MLS. Right or wrong, Frame was willing to do more than sit in an ivory tower, he was a vocal leader in 2010.
Hunger strike against Wells Fargo mortgage abuses:
When Wells Fargo threatened acceleration against Austin homeowner Jaime Furtado despite the State of Texas’ Attorney General having ordered banks including Wells Fargo to halt all foreclosures and short sales, Furtado protested. Furtado went on a hunger strike and camped out in front of the Texas capitol building for days, with appeasement attempts by Wells Fargo instructing him to resubmit forms he had already submitted.
After four days without food and little sleep, Furtado finally received a call from Wells Fargo who finally offered new loan terms. Furtado was not only fighting for his family but was taking a moral stand against the abuses of banks against those who are behind on payments. This move may seem small to some, but one we applaud.
Houston Association debuts Realtor Match to members:
This year, Bob Hale, CEO of the Houston Association of Realtors (one of the nation’s largest boards) launched Realtor Match, allowing buyers to be matched with HAR members based on MLS data within the area represented by transactions in said area in a transparent way.
Realtor Match saw disapproval from HAR members and Hale publicly acknowledged that the communications strategy behind the project was ineffective and members weren’t aware of the benefits. Members felt that Realtor Match favored more experienced agents, leaving newer agents at a disadvantage. We believe other boards in 2011 will attempt their own versions of Realtor Match as Zillow and others launch ratings and they are accepted as an inevitability. HAR was just ahead of the curve.
Apple introduces the iPad and adds a third technology to the mix:
After months of speculation about what it would be called and what its features would be, the Apple iPad was revealed early this year and sales immediately met expectations. We believe introducing the iPad into the market and jump starting the emerging tablet trend has an impact on the real estate industry not only because of agents now carrying around their iPad and needing technology to work on it, buyers are doing the same.
Compatibility has become a major issue as Apple refused to run Flash on the iPad, leaving many real estate applications useless. This has created a third facet to developers’ world, now contending with standard web, mobile and now iPad formats. Vendors have scrambled to make decisions for development and consumers (including agents) now know more about technology than ever. This was a big change.
Sponsored HR5017, fighting for rural areas and USDA funding:
Although HR5017 sponsored by Paul Kanjorski has not been passed through the Senate or signed by the President yet, it was a major move to support the USDA affordable loans for rural housing which often goes overlooked.
Federal funding for the USDA program has run low (and rumored to be in the black) throughout this year and any measure to stabilize any sector of the real estate market is very much needed in this economy.
Redfin goes mainstream, repairs relations with Realtors:
As Redfin has reportedly become profitable, the drumbeat of the Redfin national expansion goes on and the disruptive tune against Realtors as part of Redfin’s aggressive launch several years ago has faded into a pro-consumer tune (which may feel the same to insiders, but to outsiders is dramatically different).
Although a Russian spy was working in the ranks at Redfin, they didn’t let it stall them from coming out with tech innovations like mapping clusters. Despite becoming more traditional over time, Redfin hasn’t slowed their tech tinkering and it shows.
MarketLeader snatches up Roost talent as new CTO:
Roost co-founder Alex Lange was named this year as marketing and real estate lead management company, Market Leader’s Chief Technology Officer. It has been a while since we’ve seen a talent shuffle and with what Lange built at Roost from scratch, this move will definitely be an advantage to Market Leader (formerly known as HouseValues).
This move gives a peek into Market Leader’s possible motives for 2011 as they expand their offering.
Blackberry surprises all and turns sales around dramatically:
BlackBerry/RIM CEO Mark Lazaridis’ leadership in 2010 led to their exceeding all market expectations, pleasing thousands of BlackBerry enthusiasts in the real estate industry who rely on their BlackBerry for business operations. With BlackBerry sales up an 5.1 million new subscribers, Lazaridis’ aggressiveness has possibly saved the company in the long term as iPhones and Androids take over the majority of the mobile market share.
In the third quarter of this year alone, RIM earnings saw a 45% gain, beating expectations of Wall Street as well as tech analysts. Despite threats from other mobile technologies, RIM is holding tight.
SMMI joins ePro designation:
Social Media Marketing Institute CEO Bill Lublin has spent many years inside the National Association of Realtors organization not only as a broker/member but as a committee member, NAR leader and long term chair, giving him intimate knowledge of the inner workings of NAR and the educational needs of its members first hand. After several months of blogging himself and using social networking in his personal real estate business, Lublin discovered a new vertical for ePro and co-founded SMMI which this year partnered with NAR to revitalize the ePro designation to bring it up to date with modern tech standards to include social networking best practices.
Peltier calls for a drop in NAR membership:
It is a popular notion that a good portion of dues paying Realtors across America are housewives that sell a house to a buddy each year for shoe money and that the part time agents aren’t dedicated enough and give the industry a bad name. NAR does not perform any aptitude testing or CCIM-style hoops outside of paying dues and being licensed locally. We’re not calling that right or wrong, it just is how it is operated.
Regardless, pundits like to tout that there should be a smaller membership to function more effectively and lend integrity to the profession but no one has been willing to put an actual number on what membership should be until this fall. Home Services of America’s Chairman and CEO, Ron Peltier stated that the ideal number is around 750,000, not the current 1+ million. This brave move makes Peltier unpopular in some circles, but we believe it to be a powerful statement.
Zillow makes bold announcement of IPO plans:
On top of worrying about how to make the next big innovation and expansion of their audience and offering, Zillow made some big moves this year, from whispering about preparing to go public to shifting leadership. This spring, their big move was partnering with Yahoo! real estate and extending Premier Agent.
Zillow’s former CEO (and current Board member) Rich Barton stepped down this year and Spencer Rascoff stepped up, starting the corporate shuffle. The bid for IPO will likely produce more big moves from Zillow in 2011.
Facebook shuts down massive group, Rivera fights back:
After nearly two years in operation, Jonathan Rivera’s agent referral Facebook page “Social Realtors” (facebook.com/socialrealtors) was shut down by Facebook, leaving its 47,000 page fans in the dark. As AgentGenius knows first hand, using the word “REALTOR” in a URL is a trademark violation even for dues paying members, even when used in social networks. Allegedly, the National Association of Realtors reached out to Rivera repeatedly with no response, thus resorted to requesting Facebook change the vanity URL to remove the word Realtor. Facebook responded by removing the entire page.
After Rivera went public with his plight and fighting for page restoration, NAR reportedly reiterated to Facebook that if the page was renamed it would not violate trademark at which time Facebook restored the page which now has over 52,000 fans.
Cloud CMA launches, changes industry expectations:
Co-founder of Cloud CMA creators, W&R Studios, Greg Robertson announced in January the launch of the Cloud CMA web app which would originally serve southern California.
Cloud CMA is an online (or smartphone) personalized report generator that allows agents to perform a quick CMA, buyer tour and get information piped in not only directly from their ML system but Zillow, Google, WalkScore, Education.com and more so that clients get the full picture. The power move is not only in setting a new standard with a sleek user interface and full data sets, but in including third party data rather than pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Android growth explodes, takes a stronghold on mobile sector:
Google executive Andy Rubin has always been involved in the smartphone operating system project, Android. The release of the Android into the phone market inspired many to look at options other than Apple for the first time since iPhones scooped up a major market share. The Android has impacted the real estate industry by giving a non-iPhone alternative to agents in the field as well as provide a smartphone option with an open developer community meaning more free apps and ultimately phone market competition.
Google real estate expands, begins photographing building interiors:
Google has continued edging their way into the real estate space, primarily by piping in all sources to their maps so that users can go to Google Maps and search for foreclosures and active sales alongside pizza joints and schools. Google Street View has had a major impact on real estate and consumers now expect it to be built into any IDX feed or real estate search they perform online.
This year, Google made a power move by starting the process of photographing building interiors. Just like when Street View originally launched as an overly ambitious project, it was criticized as too big and unrealistic, as has this project been but we anticipate that interior view photography will become equally valid in the space as Street View.
The IRS takes a strong stance against tax credit fraud:
As the homebuyer tax credit ended this spring, the IRS took a close look at fraud which was found via their audit to exceed millions of dollars. Their audit revealed that $9.1 million went to prison inmates incarcerated at the time of purchase, over 10,000 addresses had multiple credit claims on them, in one case a single address had 67 credits issued to separate tax payers. The audit even showed $17.6 million in checks cut to buyers that bought prior to the tax credit even went into effect.
The IRS took a strong position against this fraud and has pursued each individual alleged fraud case to recoup the losses to the American tax payers.
Inman introduces new CEO, transforms identity:
This spring, Inman News named Tim Smith as their new CEO. Smith’s extensive leadership experience in the events and media sectors reveals Inman’s emphasis on conferences. As signs pointing to their identity shift this year, Inman also appointed a new Advisory Board and changed the location of their annual San Francisco conference. Smith’s background in events has helped launch Agent Reboot, Inman’s traveling road show.
Goomzee gains tractions, lands some major clients:
After landing a $1.5 investment injection earlier this year, Goomzee has continued to grow. Goomzee is a text message marketing company where agents can get a unique ID code buyers can send a text to and receive listing info and photos, giving agents hot leads.
Goomzee has partnered with many boards to be their mobile MLS provider such as Arizona MLS and the Austin Board of Realtors with reportedly several others that will soon be announced.
NAR approves Article 10, making sexual orientation a protected class:
Article 10 passed, a widely overlooked and underrated move this year was made by a NAR committee. Article 10 includes the LGBT (gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered) community as a protected class under the Code of Ethics. This is an ambitious, pace setting move made in a world where even the Fair Housing laws do not yet include sexual orientation as a protected class.
The Equal Rights Amendment makes the Code of Ethics more adherent to modern cultural standards and although it did not pass unanimously, it did pass with 93%.
KW leads the charge against Fannie Mae restrictions on REO listings:
When Fannie Mae imposed a limit of 30 REO listings per broker, brokers who specialize in and do high volume of REO listings were left in the lurch. In response, Keller Williams’ CEO Mark Willis led the charge against the limit, writing not only to every single KW agent to alert them but directly to Fannie Mae. Other brokerages ultimately stepped in, but the power move we celebrate today is Willis’ standing up to Fannie Mae.
Wise carries the banner of independent (boutique) brokers, goes toe to toe with mega brands:
Without making claims of number one or global domination, Krisstina Wise has carried the heavy banner of the independent brokerage. As a rising star in the industry, Wise has stood toe to toe on stage with some of the biggest brokerages and stated her case as to why the brokerage of the future looks more like a corporate environment than a big box broker. In a 2010 power move, Wise devoted endless days and hours to the advancement of the progressive brokerage where she would prefer to hire very few people from outside of the sector than fill an office with dozens of half-way productive agents.
AG has reserved this spot for the late Joe Ferrara:
Joe Ferrara founded Sellsius and TheClozing.com as well as practiced law. Joe did a lot of behind the scenes work that most of the public was unaware of and was constantly trying to find new ways to help others, including a project to encourage agents to do pro bono work in short sales. This year, Joe Ferrara passed away unexpectedly, leaving a massive void in the real estate sector and we reserve this spot in honor of the power move (or moves) that we are very confident Joe could have accomplished had he more time.
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